Monday, January 24, 2011

Fifteen Favorite Guitarists

A few weeks back, a friend posted a query on Facebook, along with his own list of 15 favorites. One thing I liked was that he put a 15-minute time limit on it, so I wouldn't end up overthinking my list. So I jotted down a couple dozen candidates, winnowed them down, and called it a list. Then I packed up and left town, burying the list in a pile of stuff on my desk.

Today I found it, and now I have time to do some overthinking. The thing about lists like this is that it's not so much who you put on as who you leave off. When you're talking about instrumentalists of this caliber, there's no "best;" there are a bunch of people who are equally great in different ways.

So the first half of the list are genuine monsters I just couldn't leave off, whereas the second half contains some more idiosyncratic voices who have always been personal favorites. It goes like this:

1. Jerry Garcia
2. Eric Clapton
3. Jimi Hendrix
4. Buddy Guy
5. Keith Richards
6. David Gilmour
7. Frank Zappa
8. Jeff Beck
9. Ry Cooder
10. Adrian Belew
11. Richard Thompson
12. Diblo Dibala
13. David Lindley
14. Kaki King
15. Merle Travis

Fifteen is a nice, comfortable number for a list like this; ten is just too crowded. Of course, my friend fudged it by including his "Honorable Mentions," and my leftovers list included Robbie Robertson, Chet Atkins, Freddie King, Bonnie Raitt, Franco, Ralph Towner, Leo Kottke and Django Reinhardt.

Today it occurs to me that I left out Thurston Moore, Derek Bailey, Sonny Sharrock, Santo & Johnny, etc, etc.

(No time for links right now; do your own googling.)

So who are your faves?


  1. Martin Simpson. David Surette. Django Reinhardt. Martin Carthy. Chris Smither.

  2. 1. Jerry Garcia
    2. Eric Clapton
    3. Keith Richards
    4. Django Reinhardt
    5. Jimmy Hendrix
    6. Duane Allman
    7. Ralph Towner
    8. Bill Frisell
    9. Chet Atkins
    10. Scotty Moore
    11. Jimmy Page
    12. Tony Rice
    13. Alex de Grassi
    14. Stevie Ray Vaughn
    15. T-Bone Walker

    Made it with thirty seconds to spare....

  3. Well, hey, Anonymous, you had me doing a bit of googling of my own. I will definitely be checking out your first two picks...

    And great list, Professor. I forgot all about the sublime Mr. Frisell. I did once have the pleasure of seeing Tony Rice on stage with David Grisman (and Stephane Grappelli!) with our mutual friend Kim a few decades ago.

  4. 1. Jerry Garcia
    2. Ralph Towner
    3. Chuck Berry
    4. Docteur Nico
    5. Django Reinhardt
    6. Keith Richards
    7. Jimi Hendrix
    8. Carlos Santana
    9. John McLaughlin
    10. John Abercrombie
    11. Jeff Beck
    12. Steve Cropper
    13. Franco
    14. Syran Mbenza
    15. Pete Townshend

    Not in order, except for #1 and probably #2

  5. 1. Link Wray
    2. Freddy King
    3. Paul Burlison
    4. T-Bone Walker
    5. Jimi Hendrix
    6. Jimmy Bryant
    7. Duane Eddy
    8. Al Casey
    9. James Burton
    10. Davie Allan
    11. Don Rich
    12. Clarence White
    13. Otis Rush
    14. Merle Travis
    15. Ike Turner